Poetry Primer #4: Marilyn Dumont & Natasha Kanapé Fontaine

April 9, 2015

Marilyn Dumont is one of Canada's preeminent Métis poets--needless to say we jumped at the chance to have her select a new, up-and-coming voice for our Poetry Primer series. Dumont selected slam poet, visual artist, and environmental activist Natasha Kanapé Fontaine as an up-and-comer she feels will make an impact.

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Marilyn Dumont is one of Canada's preeminent Métis poets--needless to say we jumped at the chance to have her select a new, up-and-coming voice for our Poetry Primer series. Dumont, from northeastern Alberta, is an award-winning poet and has been a writer-in-residence at several Canadian universities, libraries, and at the Banff Centre. She is also an educator, teaching creative writing and Native Studies. Her most recent collection of poetry from ECW Press, The Pemmican Eaters, looks at the Riel Resistance. Coming up in August, Brick Books will re-issue Dumont's 1996 collection, A Really Good Brown Girl, on the occasion of their 40th anniversary with a new introduction by Lee Maracle.

As a poet with an established voice in the Canadian poetry landscape, Marilyn Dumont selected slam poet, visual artist, and environmental activist Natasha Kanapé Fontaine as an up-and-comer she feels will make an impact. Fontaine's first collection of poetry, Do Not Enter My Soul in Your Shoes, was originally published in French and won the Society of Francophone Writers of America poetry prize in 2013. Now translated by Howard Scott, it is available in English for the first time from Mawenzi House (formerly TSAR Publications).

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Marilyn Dumont on why she chose Natasha Kanapé Fontaine:

Unlike prose, poetry includes prayer as a common form within its accepted perimeters. By prayer, I mean reflection on self within a holistic cosmos rather than any faith affiliation. I think that this is the first reason many people are drawn to reading and writing this genre. But it’s a mode of being that Indigenous people have been practicing for centuries as oral text recounting cultural history, kinship and socio-economic bonds, ceremonial rituals, etc.

All women, but particularly Indigenous women in Canada, need to be heard and seen. I met Natasha Kanapé Fontaine in Trois Rivières, Québec during the International Poetry Festival. I was struck by Natasha’s writing and the performance of her work, which lifted me out of my seat, each note of her rebellious presence pushing back against conformity. Through her work, Natasha takes up space not only on the page, but also on the stage and within her homeland through her gender and race.

Jeannette Armstrong, in a powerful paper delivered to the Saskatchewan Writers Guild Conference of 1990, stated, “Our task as Native writers is twofold. To examine the past and culturally affirm toward a new vision for all of our people in the future, arising out of the powerful and positive support structures that are inherent in the principles of co-operation.” Indigenous writers such as Natasha (whom I am in contact with) carry the untold narratives of Canada, and frequently these “tellings” shed light on dark areas which can change with new energy of co-operation.

 

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Natasha Kanapé Fontaine on why she writes poetry & who her influences are:

Poetry chose me. It came to me one spring day, four years ago, through Joséphine Bacon’s, Bâtons à messages. I discovered in that book a vision I'd seen before while painting. Visions are about traditions, ancestral territory, our motherland and my relation with it. And I discovered that I was not the only one who was seeing it. That's how I came to poetry, and poetry came to me, bringing me back to our traditions. Poetry is my identity.
 
In our language, Innu means “human being.” I am influenced by movements in our country, in our world, in our humanity. I am influenced by events that concern my people. I hear drums, I hear songs and voices. And I write in the name of my people, and future generations, and the future of our planet. I put my truth in my poetry. Poetry is hope, it is truth. It makes me complete as a human being and as an Innu woman. I am here to change history, like everyone here living on this land under our feet.

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Missed the first three posts in our Poetry Primer series? Follow all the action, all month long, here!


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